Call Me Amadeus

I heard some music the other night in a loose improv style that, given a lot of more rigorous recent musical developments, I find a little old-fashioned. But I imagined myself going up to the performers and telling them that I had just finished a piano concerto, and thought I could do it with a straight face only if I were wearing a powdered wig and dipping into my Wedgwood ceramic snuff box. How old-fashioned would that have sounded? “I finished a piano concerto today” – it sounds as comically anachronistic as the sketch with which S.J. Perelman once opened a satire, in which a man comes home to his wife with the lapidary greeting, “Hello, dear, I just finished Hoover Dam.” Yet my earliest musical memories are of piano concerti – Geza Anda’s recordings of Mozart’s K. 466 and K. 503, which my parents played while I was in the crib (they would lovingly quiz me on Köchel numbers) – and the genre is so imprinted on me that I’ve always expected to write one. Even though I scrupulously avoided thinking about sonata form, sonata touches crept in before I realized it – each movement contains an arguable point of recapitulation, and the first-movement recap picks up the exposition’s ideas almost in reverse order, a Mozartean trick. Didn’t plan it that way, but I listened, and that’s where the piece wanted to go. (I keep waiting for someone to ask, “Wait a minute, you’re a Downtown composer, and you’re writing a piano concerto? What gives?” Then I’d have to admit that before I discovered Cage at 15, Copland, Harris, Bernstein, and Schuman had already seeped into my DNA, and that Composer Kyle is sometimes more Midtown than Critic Kyle likes to acknowledge.)


(End of the first movement)

In other Gannian news, I just learned that Philadelphia’s Relache ensemble is planning to premiere my suite The Planets in its 75-minute entirety next May in Delaware, so I’m going to have a ton of music premiered in the coming academic year. (Not only Mozart, I can imitate Holst, too!) As I sink deeper into composing, I predict that my blog will become so introverted that eventually no one except my mother will continue reading. (Hi Mom! Thanks for the Mozart!)


  1. says

    While on the topic of Mozart, with powdered wig and appropriate foppish regalia donned, have you had the chance to check out the good doctor Rene Jacobs and his orchestra’s recording of the Prague and Jupiter symphonies?
    (They’re on the Harmonia Mundi label.)
    KG replies: I have many Rene Jacobs recordings of Baroque music, but no classical repertoire.

  2. says

    Happy Stravinsky’s birthday! Now there was a composer who could write a piano concerto without having to don a powdered wig, and from the looks of your new concerto, Kyle, neither do you.
    I like Rene Jacobs especially because when I was playing the piano in a restaurant in my twenties, he came in one night and gave me a five dollar tip.